You can go home again

Directing career brings Friesen back to Winnipeg


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“Just when I thought I was out ... they pull me back in.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/06/2017 (1896 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

“Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in.”

— Michael Corleone

from The Godfather Part III


Collin Friesen can relate.

Friesen was born in Saskatchewan but was raised in Winnipeg, where, in the 1990s, he became a familiar face as a TV news guy on Global, and later CBC in Alberta.

But with the sale of his first feature screenplay, The Big White (2005), Friesen found himself back in Winnipeg during that film’s production in 2004, dazzled by the proximity of heavyweight Hollywood actors including Oscar-winners Robin Williams, Holly Hunter and Emmy winner Woody Harrelson.

Director Collin Friesen (left) discusses the script of Sorry For Your Loss with an actor during filming last month in Winnipeg.

Friesen returned yet again recently, both as writer and director of Sorry for Your Loss, a comedy about a son who finds himself obliged to carry out the peculiar last wish of his late, estranged father.

Friesen, 52, didn’t plan to shoot the film in Winnipeg. But when he took his script to Toronto-based producer Tony Wosk, and the money started to come together, Wosk told him: “We’re going to have to shoot in Winnipeg because of the tax-credit situation.”

“I think you end up writing your hometown in so many ways,” Friesen said over coffee at the Fort Garry Hotel the day after production wrapped.

“It’s kind of the dream in a certain way,” Friesen muses wryly. “You go to Los Angeles and you want to make it there, but in the back of your mind, you’re like: Wouldn’t it be fun to go back home and make a movie and be really big and important in front of your friends and family, none of whom think I am big or important?”

Friesen’s experience of the city ultimately made location scouting so much easier.

“We need our hero’s apartment, and I’d say: ‘Look a block north of Corydon on that one stretch.’ And the locations guy would say: ‘You’re definitely from here.’

“It’s been a trip,” Friesen says. “It’s also been absolutely friggin’ exhausting.”

It helps, as far as Friesen is concerned, that he assembled a dream cast, including Justin Bartha as the estranged son, Bruce Greenwood as his late father’s sketchy best friend, and Lolita Davidovich as his mom.

It’s safe to say Friesen’s dream cast wouldn’t be complete without his actress wife, Stephanie Czajkowski, a veteran of TV series Shameless and Grey’s Anatomy; she plays a strip-club manager named Velvet.

“I finished the script and as soon as it looked like we were going to get the damn thing made, I handed it to her and I said: ‘All right, who do you want to be?’” Friesen says, laughing. “She flipped through it and picked her part and I said, ‘Great.’

Friesen wrote the screenplay for Big White, which starred Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams (above and inset) and was filmed in Winnipeg in 2004.

“When you’re married to an actress, there’s no sense arguing about it,” he says.

That’s actually consistent with the familial inspiration for the film. The idea for the story came after a conversation with his father, he says.

“He mentioned a friend of his and it was a friend I had never heard of,” Friesen says. “It wasn’t one of their married friends and it wasn’t in the dad universe.

“And all of a sudden, it struck me: He had this whole other life. You just know people as what they are to you, but there’s this whole other existence that you never know or may never explore.”

The more comic side of the equation is represented by the father’s wish.

“He wants to have his ashes scattered on the field of his favourite professional sports team, which is not an easy thing to do, as it turns out,” Friesen says. “You start doing research and you find a lot of people have been arrested, tackled and tased and thrown in jail with bags of human remains.

“When I saw that, I thought: That’s a comedy,” Friesen says. “It’s got everything I look for: estrangement, death and professional sports.”

Sorry for Your Loss is currently in post-production.

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.


Updated on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 7:48 AM CDT: Adds photos

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